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George Meadows was now a man of fifty, and his wife was a year or two
younger. They were both fine, upstanding, people and their children, two sons and three girls, were handsome and strong. But the master of the house was not George Meadows; it was his mother. Her word was law in the house and on the farm. One day Mrs. George stopped me on my way home. (Her mother-in-law was the only Mrs. Meadows we knew; George’s wife was only known as Mrs. George.) ‘’Whoever do you think is coming here today?’’ she asked me. ‘’Uncle George Meadows.’’ ‘’Why, I thought he was dead.’’ I heard the story of Uncle George
Meadows and Tom, his younger brother, had both courted Mrs. Meadows when she was Emily Green, fifty years and more ago, and when she married Tom, George had gone away to sea. Mrs. George asked me to look in and see him. Of course I accepted. I found the whole family assembled. When I arrived, they were sitting in the great old kitchen, Mrs. Meadows in her usual chair by the fire, very upright, and I was amused to see that she had put on her best silk dress. On the other side of the fireplace sat an old man. He was very thin and he had lost nearly all his teeth. I shook hands with him. It was strange to look at them, these two old people who had not seen one another for half a century, and to think all that long time he had loved her and she had loved another. ‘’Have you ever been married, Captain Meadows?’’ I asked. ‘’I said I’d never marry anyone but you, Emily, and I never have.’’ He said this as mere statement of fact. ‘’Well, one thing you’ve not done, George, as far as I can see,’’ said Mrs.
Meadows, ’’and that’s to make a fortune.’’ ‘’I’m not one to save money. But one thing I can say for myself: if I had the chance of going through my life again I’d take it.’’ I looked at him with admiration and respect. He was a toothless, crippled, penniless old man, but he had made a success of live, for he had enjoyed it. Next morning when I came to the garden I saw Mrs. Meadows picking flowers. ‘’ How’s Caption Meadows?’’ I asked her. ‘’When Lizzie took him in a cup of tea this morning she found he was dead.’’ ‘’Dead?’’ ‘’Yes. Died in his sleep. Well, I’m glad he came back,’’ she said. ‘’After I married Tom Meadows and George went away, the fact is I
was never quite sure that I’d married the right one.’’